New public lands law promises protections for Oregon natural landmarks

A bipartisan package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump today includes protections for the Devil's Staircase, Chetco River, and tributaries of the Rogue River.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 2:50 PM
Updated: Mar 12, 2019 3:02 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A sweeping legislative package signed into law by President Trump today includes key environmental provisions for which Oregon's U.S. Senators have long been pushing.

“Conserving our state’s iconic Devil’s Staircase, adding hundreds of miles of wild-and-scenic rivers, increasing wildfire protections and more totals up to a big win for Oregon’s recreation economy,” Senator Ron Wyden said after the White House signing ceremony. “This is the largest public lands package passed by Congress in a decade and I look forward to building on its gains for every corner of our state.”

The law creates the newly protected Devil's Staircase Wilderness, consisting of about 30,000 acres of land within the Oregon Coast Range — tucked between the Smith and Umpqua rivers and named for an iconic waterfall in the region.

Much of the changes procured for Oregon are located directly in Southern Oregon, however. A number of Oregon lawmakers have long fought to obtain permanent protection for the Chetco River from mining and mineral extraction interests, something now galvanized with the passage of the public lands package.

The bill also included an additional 250 miles of Oregon rivers known to be breeding grounds for salmon and steelhead as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This provision reportedly includes:

  • Roughly 120 miles of Rogue River tributaries
  • A 21-mile stretch of the Molalla River
  • 18 miles of Jenny Creek, which flows through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
  • 21 miles of Wasson Creek and Franklin Creek in the Siuslaw National Forest
  • Several important tributaries of the Elk River

The bill also includes legislation introduced by Oregon lawmakers in honor of Frank and Jeanne Moore, "an Oregon couple with a distinguished legacy of conservation and habitat preservation," according to Wyden's office. This designates almost 100,000 acres of Forest Service land north of the North Umpqua River as the “Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area” and adds protections for the river, and the surrounding area to preserve steelhead habitat and recreation opportunities.

Also included is a provision to improve the efforts of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to protect Crooked River Ranch, a community in central Oregon, from wildfire. In this case, the law actually involves lifting protections for a wilderness study area in order to manage them in an effort to protect Crooked River Ranch instead.

CLICK HERE for more about the bill and how it will impact lands across the U.S.

The package, known as the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act), also includes dozens of bills that affect lands in states across the U.S.

“President Trump knows that federal lands are meant to provide both peace and prosperity for the American people, and signing this bill allows us to continue managing public lands in a balanced way,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “This bill is extremely beneficial to the American people and I look forward to working with Congress and local communities to implement the many local conservation wins within the bill.”

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